Friday, 16 May 2014

My first six months using a guide cane - Graham

Having nearly done myself a mischief a few times stepping off buses and trains in the last year or two, it became apparent to me that the time had come. I realised that I might be ready and possibly overdue applying for a guide cane from the Sensory Impairment Team at Howden House.

I had already tried using a symbol cane, a flimsy white wand, the purpose of which is just to let others know you have a sight issue, but it never really cut the mustard and I felt a bit self-conscious just carrying it limply in front of me.

A guide cane however, is a different kettle of fish. bigger and more solid. It's not quite as business like as a long cane with a ball on the end, but I didn't need this level of help. I still have some sight and don't really need to sweep as I walk about, but for steps, kerbs and difficult lighting conditions, the guide cane seemed to be the right 'weapon of choice' for me.

Following a short bit of training, I was away.

Using the cane seemed very natural and easy for me to use and I don't go anywhere without it now. As well as solving my 'getting off trains and buses' problems, because of the size, it is a much more effective symbol cane and for the first time I am aware that people are giving me space on pavements and I get served in pubs much more quickly. I was surprised however, to find that I still get 'chugged' outside the bus station and on Fargate, just as often as before and beggars also seem to find the cane invisible. I don't get asked to do market research any more though. It seems that blind/sight impaired people's opinions are not relevant to big companies? I think it is more likely that the researchers just don't know what to do when confronted with someone who seems sight impaired?

On the downside, using a guide cane does mess about with your self-image and self-confidence. I am naturally a very confident person, but whilst using a cane, I feel more disabled in a strange kind of way and don't feel as confident as I used to. I feel more disabled than I did before and my partner seems to relate to me whilst using my cane in a different way, as if I am more in need of basic help. I think she is more self-conscious about it than me. I have noticed that she never asks me to put the bins out. She just does it, in spite of me offering and I haven't been asked to wash the car since getting the cane, in spite of still being fit.

I was talking to a fellow sight impaired person a week ago or so and they said they wouldn't use a cane as it is a negative badge that makes others have pre-conceptions about you before they meet you. I can see their point, but the safety benefits and the fact that that I don't have to wash the car any more make it, as badges go, one of the best I have had to wear!